Is it an allergy? An intolerance? Something else…??
Did you know that anaphylaxis, postnasal drip, bloating and gas, eczema, migraines and joint pain symptoms could all be related? How?
All of the above symptoms can be caused by reactions to the foods you’re eating – either food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances. Symptoms may range from mild to severe in a given individual, depending on whether and if so which part of the immune system is activated and how long it takes for the reaction to occur. Treating such conditions is possible, but it’s important to know the difference between an actual food allergy and an intolerance so that you can be appropriately treated.
Due to activation of the immune system, the two more common processes associated with Food Allergies are Type I and Type IV Hypersensitivity reactions:
Type I Hypersensitivity: reactions occur within minutes and are usually very serious.
Typically, an individual may not react the first time they are exposed, however after that sensitization occurs, subsequent exposures can result in severe reactions including anaphylaxis and even death.
Examples of Type I reactions include peanut and bee venom allergies.
Type IV Hypersensitivity: are generally more delayed reactions. Symptoms can present themselves over the next 30 minutes to 72 hours.
Symptoms of Type IV Hypersensitivity vary considerably, ranging from bloating, gas and abdominal cramps to headaches and fatigue to eczema, acne rosacea and dandruff, etc. Individuals with this form of allergy can experience reactions upon first exposure.
A common example is sensitivity to Whey or Casein in Dairy
Celiac Disease is another example where the body produces antibodies to Gluten
An intolerance to any food does not involve activation of the immune system, rather it is related to the body’s inability to process or digest a component of that food.
Symptoms of food intolerances may be similar to Type IV Hypersensitivity reactions, for example abdominal pain/cramping bloating and gas.
A common example is Lactose Intolerance – this is due to insufficient Lactase, the enzyme that is required to digest the milk sugar lactose
To further complicate matters…
Not only are there allergies and sensitivities, some other reactions that cause allergy-like symptoms but don’t involve immune responses include:
Reactions to bacterial toxins (such as in food poisoning)
Symptoms that are really caused by food additives (dyes, MSG, etc) or medications
Psychological triggers that may cause certain people to react to foods, circumstances, environments, etc
If you think you might be reacting to some foods you’ve been eating, testing is available to help identify the causative foods. We can help you learn to manage, prevent and possibly treat your symptoms so that you can enjoy your food and be more comfortably and healthily now and in the future!
Dr Katarine Holewa ND RAc